What is a 5-9er?
A 5-9er is a term given to those running business in the evenings, usually during the hours of 5pm to 9pm. Most 5-9ers have commitments during the day, eg. a full time job and so can only really focus on their businesses in the evenings and/or weekends.
Of course, one does not have to be working strictly between those hours…could be 6pm to 10pm or 11pm to midnight.
I started a web design business alongside my job in 2015 and it has been quite a journey. I am now in the process of pivoting my business from client focused custom work to helping people create their own websites and help them with their branding…my point being, what you start out doing may not be where you end up…but you have to start somewhere.
The RSA (The Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) commissioned a study in association with Etsy to explore the rise in self employment (part and full time) in the UK. They found that the number of microbusinesses (those with 0 to 9 employees) had increased by 40% from the year 2000). The reason for this is mainly due to the technology and the ease of setting up online businesses with a relatively small financial outlay. The plug and play nature of online marketplaces has made it accessible to anyone, compared to the past where starting a business meant making an appointment with the bank to obtain a loan.
Getting the word out about what you are doing, making connections, and selling your offering is easier than ever thanks to the global reach of social media.
What are the benefits of being a 5-9er?
One of the key benefits of running a business alongside a job is having a stable income. The income takes care of bills and daily living costs, allowing you to focus on creating a business you really love rather than worrying about the financial side of things.
Taking this pressure off allows one to have time to develop skills, build your knowledge base, make connections and focus on quality in a less rushed manner.
You may have a passion project or a hobby business idea and spending a few hours a week on something creative may allow you to feel more fulfilled. However, you don’t want your business to be an expensive hobby.
One of my favourite 5-9er tips is from business card artist Hugh MacLeod who shares the following in his book ‘How to be Creative’:
” donʼt quit your day job… The fact I have a job means I donʼt feel pressured to do something market-friendly. Instead, I get to do whatever the hell I want. I get to do it for my own satisfaction. And I think that makes the work more
powerful in the long run. It also makes it easier to carry on with it in a calm fashion, day-in day-out, and not go crazy in insane, creative bursts brought on by money worries.”
Basically, there is a different type of energy required for your ‘day job’ compared to your ‘side-hustle’. Spending the day doing one thing, drawing a line at 5pm (or whenever), then being excited about working on your passion project uses a different kind of energy. I have found that the evening hours go past really quickly when I’m working on something I am enjoying.
Entrepreneur and mentor Gary Vaynerchuk also advises that it is possible to start a dream business alongside your job. Instead of watching television or playing video games, use that time to work on your business instead. Gary prefers to advocate the hours of 7pm to 2am:
“You don’t know if you’re going to be good at something until you do it. Now up and quitting your job isn’t practical. I know that people have lots of variables in their lives like kids and mortgages that don’t allow them to flip on a dime, but that’s why, in Crush It! I wrote about the idea of 7pm-2am. Now if you really hate your job, that is a powerful thing. Hate is a tremendous motivator. Hate is worth working from 7 at night to 2 in the morning. And what’s great about the time we live in is that 20 years ago, you couldn’t have done that, but with the internet, 7pm-2am is just as useful as any other time of the day.”
It is popular amongst creatives to think they are not ‘true artists’ if they aren’t working all the time on their art. Marie Forleo dispels this idea, advising that you need to support yourself so you can focus on your art (or whatever you are passionate about). By doing your best at your job, you can come home and be in a positive frame of mind and work on your business. Marie explains that the financial cushion built up can help fund your business and if you so wish, transition to full time self employment.
What kind of business would suit a 5-9er?
Online businesses have the most flexibility but this encompasses a variety of choices:
Handmade items are in popular demand, possibly an antithesis to all the tech-y and digital things that are common. You may be making things as a hobby – why not sell these online? Etsy is a popular online marketplace focusing on handmade and vintage items. It’s very easy to set up a store and start selling straightaway. You pay per listing and when you make a sale so there is not a great financial outlay. You can spend your leisure time doing something you love and then selling it is a bonus!
Digital products are also great – you make something once (art, workbooks, printables) and sell online. Again Etsy is a good choice or indeed from your own website using Gumroad or Payhip.
I love being creative and tech-y and for me web design was a great choice. I took some courses and set up my business offering web design services to my fellow entrepreneurs.
Other service-based businesses examples: tutoring, bookkeeping, copywriting and coaching. Virtual Assistance is a very popular option as you can specialise in any area people need help in, for example, administration, technology and social media.
Online courses and memberships sites are super popular these days. You can use your area of expertise (does not have to be related to your day job!) and help others by teaching what you know. A membership site is a great way to have regular income in return for providing your knowledge and services in a ‘one-to-many’ business model.
The rise of drop-shipping companies means that you can create something to sell (fun) and outsource the rest! eBay and Amazon are long running marketplaces and it’s easier than ever to sell online. Online selling platforms such as Shopify offer a plug in and play way to start selling almost immediately.
It is true that all you need is an idea and an internet connection to start a business, but to successfully run a business; you do have to revert to traditional business concepts, for example:
Market Research: Creating something to sell is great, but you need to have a customer base that wants what you are selling.
Know your Customer: Defining a target market means you can tailor your services/products and communications to be on the same wavelength as them (the era of the generalist seems to be over…people prefer specialists…)
Values & Mission: What do you stand for? You need to articulate your message clearly with the view that it should resonate with your audience.
Things to bear in mind as a 5-9er
One of the key things I recommend is to set boundaries. Although being self-employed allows for flexibility, you still need to define boundaries, especially as a 5-9er because of the reduced hours you have available.
- If you need to concentrate on your business at a specific time, communicate this to family members.
- If you have young children, carve out time to meet their needs.
- Define when you can take client calls (eg. I don’t take calls after 9pm).
- Set up service level agreements (SLAs), for example, that you will respond to client queries within 24 hours.
Another important aspect is ‘self-care’ – taking care of yourself, so you do not become too stressed and overwhelmed. Taking regular breaks and focusing on one thing at a time (controversial in the era of ‘multi-tasking’) are easy said than done sometimes!
In summary, starting a business around your job is a great way to experience whether you like being self employed! You can experiment and build your skills whilst being supported by your stable income. With such a variety of options, it’s worth exploring how your passions can turn into profits!